Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Recalls serve democratic purpose

Proposal to amend State Constitution unwarranted

Following the tumultuous recall election season Wisconsin just experienced, it's understandable that many citizens may be ready for a break from the need for more challenges -- at least until the governor's time comes. But Republican legislators want to do more than take a break: they want to restrict the conditions under which recalls can be initiated.

Republicans are busy crafting legislation to amend the State Constitution to limit recall elections solely to instances of misconduct on the part of the official in question. In other words, lawmakers wouldn't need to fear a recall based upon their political decision-making or policies.

The move would definitely make recall elections more difficult to initiate -- but for a process that's already rarer than a constitutional amendment itself, do we really need to make it tougher to recall elected officials? Consider the rationale behind each side.

Why make recalls more restrictive? Because it's annoying? Because people are tired of the process? A similar argument could be made that democracy itself is annoying, bothersome, intrusive in the lives of others. Yet it's also the best thing we have, the best form of government available, allowing the people themselves to bear the responsibility and privilege of selecting its leaders.

I don't believe that people who are advocating added restrictions of recall elections are anti-democratic; but if successful, their move to restrain the process will limit the power of the people to have direct influence in their government. It's not necessarily anti-democratic, but it's certainly not empowering democracy either.

Conservatives are arguing that lawmakers, if so elected, deserve to serve their terms to their fullest extent. But where is the justification for that? If a politician loses the confidence of his people, how is it that he can justly govern them in a way that they clearly unsatisfactory? Conversely, there is plenty of justification for the preservation of recalls as they stand now. For one, they're still incredibly difficult to get started. Of the 16 senators eligible for recall this year, only 9 actually made it to the election stage, and of those only two were successfully recalled.

But more importantly than that, recalls are justified because they serve a democratic purpose. A leader who no longer rules under the conditions that his constituents deem proper should be subject to removal by them because he no longer serves their interests.

By making politicians subject to recalls only if they conduct themselves in an egregious way, we limit the power of the people. Political leaders can remove the rights of people, can curtail their privileges, and yet would still be acting within the parameters that Republicans are proposing. Recalls serve a purpose -- they allow a people, acting democratically, to remove a public figure from office who no longer serves their needs.

No comments:

Post a Comment